The GOP is the natural party of suburban New Jersey.

Matt Rooney is right.  The Democrats’ “unwillingness to end the redistribution of funds from the suburbs to failing urban schools remains the single biggest driver of our state’s nightmarish, neighborhood-killing property taxes.”

The Democrats could – and should – be challenged on their cruel insistence that economically distressed families in suburban and rural New Jersey be made to subsidize rich corporations and wealthy professionals in places like Jersey City and Hoboken.  The tax breaks with which urban Democrat bosses favor contributors to political campaigns are paid for with subsidies from struggling communities throughout New Jersey. 

There is more than enough corporate and professional money in urban New Jersey to cover the education of the children who live there.  If those interested parties were made responsible for the children of their communities the educational systems there would be subject to a greater degree of local oversight and on-the-spot scrutiny by those stakeholders.  Absent that, under the current system of subsidy from afar, those subsidized stakeholders are more than content to allow political corruption to flourish, just so long as they keep getting their discount. 

It is shameful for One Percenters like Phil Murphy, Steve Fulop, Lacey Rzeszowski, and Saily Avelenda to don their pussy hats and try to argue that their tax breaks are about “helping poor children”.  Not when their “philanthropy” is paid for by over-taxed, working class families trying to stay out of foreclosure. There is nothing LIBERAL about screwing over working class families to pay for propping-up corrupt urban political machines. 

As far back as the administration of Governor Jim McGreevey, the Democrats knew that half of the state’s economically disadvantaged children lived outside the over-funded urban Abbott school districts.  More than a decade has passed since the state Supreme Court issued its report on this – and NOTHING has been done to overturn the fundamental unfairness of the state’s system of funding education. 

Since the economic crash of 2008, suburban and rural poverty has grown in New Jersey and throughout the United States.  That’s what the liberal to centrist Brookings Institute has argued in their published studies.  Brookings’ experts also note that, since the 1960’s, most of the nation’s anti-poverty programs have been aimed at the cities.   

Rural and suburban New Jersey lack even the basic infrastructure to help get people back on their feet – on top of which local municipalities are robbed of the property taxes that could help with this.  Everything is taken from them – in the name of the urban poor – but for the use of the One Percent and the corporations they control. 

Corrupt urban political machines, corrupt vendors, rich corporations, and wealthy professionals all make out under the Abbott regime.  The genuinely poor remain trapped in schools that, for all the money spent per pupil, fail to educate their students or prepare them for the working world.  The kids are used as pawns, as an excuse, for the corruption and those getting rich from it.

More than a decade ago a prescient writer by the name of Paul Mulshine argued that the life of every child mattered and that the state needed to provide a uniform baseline of funding.  Instead, the Democrats have ensured that the money continues to miss those poor children living outside the Abbotts, while failing to help those living within the Abbotts. 

The question is, will those currently charged with leading New Jersey Republicans into their next battle recognize these stark facts starring them in the face?  Will they make use of them?  If not for their own political ambitions and those of their party – Republican leaders should be urged to do so on behalf of over-taxed working people, their children, and for the child pawns being used but not served.

New Jersey Republicans face extinction.  Their fighting prowess is minimal.  It has reached the point where any plausible Democrat candidate with a modicum of funding can expect to simply march in and take most of their remaining legislative seats.  Not in Northwest New Jersey mind you, where every Democrat on the ballot was just ruthlessly slaughtered and where the Democrat who challenged Senator Steve Oroho in 2017 lost her school board seat.  This is where the pussy hats run into a phalanx of flannel shirts (and those are the women!).  

In his column (, Matt Rooney raises the question of whether Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick is up to the task of fighting the Democrats next year.  Whether he is a “wartime consiglieri” or not.  We hope that he is, but at the present, he appears to be more concerned about how he is perceived within the “bubbles” of Trenton and Westfield (whose median income is double that of Sussex County). 

Assembly Leader Bramnick would do well to break out of this bubble.  “Bubble land” doesn’t understand America.  It is too rich, too privileged, too unconcerned with the basics of shelter and debt to worry about those who are.  Bubble land never understood the rise of Donald Trump.  Never got the levels of pain and disappointment that the eight gray years of Barack Obama brought to those working class people who voted for him in 2008.  They put it down to “racism” when it was really about the threat of foreclosure – of losing… everything.

We urge Jon Bramnick and the other leaders of the NJGOP to embark on an experiment in listening and learning.  Not the usual photo-op in Newark… go to where the new poverty is.  Visit a food pantry in what everyone thinks is a middle class town.  Watch the people who once had a good job, with benefits and a pension, but who now work three without.  Notice the high priced automobiles, now over a decade old.  Drive around and take note of the “for sale” signs.  Visit an encampment of working people who have lost their homes.

This isn’t a time for rallying around a corrupt Establishment that – uses poor people as an excuse to rape working people to make rich people richer.  No matter how you personally feel about the Democrats responsible, these are bad policies and they must be challenged.  The choice must be one of clear-blue-water between the parties.  Again, if not for your own political ambitions and those of your party, do it for the over-taxed working people, for their children, and for the child pawns being used but not served.

Matt Rooney makes the point very clearly:  “Taxpayers want an advocate… not a mediator.”  Amen.

Julie O’Connor: Stark raving ideologue

(originally published by CNJ in February 2013)

“It does take great maturity to understand that the opinion we are arguing for is merely the hypothesis we favor, necessarily imperfect, probably transitory, which only very limited minds can declare to be a certainty or a truth.” ― Milan Kundera

According a 2009 account given in the Star-Ledger, Julie O’Connor spent her formative years in that bastion of establishment liberalism, Montclair, New Jersey and now lives in one New Jersey’s Abbott Districts – Jersey City.  Like similar members of the establishment, Ms. O’Connor has had the benefit of most of the state’s income tax payers working hard to subsidize the property taxes paid by the affluent households in her community.  Isn’t it nice to live in one of the wealthy colonies dependent on the largesse of the state’s Democrat Party? 

Isn’t it nice to see your property tax bill subsidized by everyone else – including the 49 percent of the state’s economically deprived children living outside the Abbott Districts?  And this number comes from the state Supreme Court’s own Doin Report.  Even Governor Jim McGreevey’s Education Commissioner said that the state should stop subsidizing rich gentrified urban communities at the expense poor rural ones.

Before joining the Star-Ledger’s editorial board, Ms. O’Connor was active in the Peace Corps – in the vacation paradise known as Costa Rica.  The Ledger’s promotional piece on her notes:  “In her spare time, she enjoys running, drinking chai tea and watching reruns of ‘I Love Lucy.’”  Get the picture?

Somewhere along the way, this hothouse orchid developed quite a mouth on her and an intolerance to civil debate.  If she happens to disagree with your opinion, that makes you “nuts”, and she’ll call you that, in print.

And it doesn’t matter that her own newspaper, in editorial after editorial, once expressed the same concerns about the same issue – if you disagree with Julie O’Connor, you’re “nuts”.

In a February 14, 2013, editorial penned by Julie O’Connor on behalf of the entire Editorial Board and management of the Star-Ledger, Ms. O’Connor put forward the argument that anyone concerned about the unwieldy size, composition, or process that has gone into concocting the Bush-Obama “Terrorism Watch List” and the effects this might have on due process and the protections afforded by the Bill of Rights, was – in Ms. O’Connor’s word – “nuts”.

Apparently she hadn’t read the concerns put forward by the Star-Ledger itself, in earlier editorials:

“Terror list cries out for reform” screams one editorial.  Criticizing the million name list it notes:  “The number of names on the terror list, many as common as ‘Gary Smith’ or ‘Teddy Kennedy,’ guarantees thousands of innocent travelers regularly get pulled aside for questioning at airports and borders. Besides being a pain for ordinary people, it wastes valuable law enforcement time with no real security benefit.”

The Star-Ledger advises the FBI to “shelve” plans to use “profiling” to enhance its “terrorist” watch list.  The Ledger editorial warns:  “Comparing untold numbers of Americans to a terrorist profile would endanger civil liberties and wouldn't be a very effective way of ferreting out those who threaten the nation.”

In another editorial headline, the Star-Ledger concludes that “the watch list is dangerous”, and makes the following observations:  “The flaws in the FBI's handling of names on the nation's terrorist watch list are troubling enough. Inaccurate, outdated or incomplete data are passed along by agents without being reviewed for reliability. The result is a list with many names that shouldn't be there. Here's something more troubling: The FBI is probably doing the best job in government in processing names to be added to the list, according to a recent Justice Department inspector general's report. Other agencies don't share information reliably, don't all follow the same reporting protocols and don't even always define ‘terrorism’ the same way. Information isn't updated. Names aren't removed when people are cleared of any connection to terrorism.”

Those are from just three of the many editorials written before the management and editors of the Star-Ledger executed an about face on the question of due process and the Bill of Rights.  The list is flawed and should not be used as the basis of whether or not we are afforded our constitutionally protected civil rights.  In the following clip, Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert shreds the ridiculousness of the so-called “Terrorist Watch List”, noting that Nobel Prize winner Nelson Mandela was on the list for many years:

Look, we all know why this editorial was written like a piece of attack mail from the New Jersey Democrat State Committee.  The day before the editorial’s publication, reported that state Democrat Party leaders had held a strategy session by conference call that day and were “mobilizing” for a “public relations assault” against Republicans on exactly the issue on which Ms. O’Connor labeled Republicans as “nuts”.  Maybe she was on the call?

In the past, Star-Ledger editors and management, through their editorials, have lectured the newspaper’s readers on the importance of “civility” in public discourse.  They have lectured against name-calling and bullying and on the need for a greater understanding of mental health issues and a greater sensitivity to those who suffer from mental health problems.  The Ledger praised then Acting Governor, Senator Dick Codey, for his good service in this area and noted the difficulties braved by the state’s then First Lady.  It is a good thing Julie O’Connor wasn’t selecting the words for that editorial.

Of course, the management of the Star-Ledger is in hock to the state’s Democrat Party and there is little the editorial board can do about it.  Like Julie O’Connor, the Star-Ledger is located in one of the state’s Abbott Districts and the corporation’s property tax bill would rise astronomically if New Jersey were to adopt Fair School Funding.  And the Ledger is only a tiny part of a much larger corporate enterprise with significant holdings that benefit from the largesse of state Democrats. 

Remember how the state’s newspaper industry panicked when they thought they would lose their corporate welfare?  When there was a bill up that would have allowed county and local governments to post notices on-line instead of forcing them to spend the money from property taxes to publish newspaper notices that nobody reads.  That’s right, in the age of digital technology your property tax dollars are being used to prop up a failing business model that depends on deforestation and flushing effluence into waterways. 

But there is a larger question here and it is a really BIG and IMPORTANT question:  The management of New Jersey’s largest newspaper, through its editorial board, appear to believe that due process and the Bill of Rights have no place in our current situation.  That in the twelfth year of the “War on Terror”, with no formal Declaration of War and no end in sight, we as a nation must accept that ideas such as due process, the rule of law, and justice no longer have a place in our society.  They appear to want to convince us that “if we can save just one life. . . for the children” then we should shove the whole Bill of Rights into the shit bin.

Tom Moran, the man entrusted by the management to run the Star-Ledger’s editorial board, has labeled the Constitution as a “source of our woes” and as much as said that we need to scrap the American Constitution in favor of a strong-man executive style of government, similar to what they have in Egypt or Russia.  One idea that Moran floated was to allow newly elected presidents to appoint 10 senators and 50 congressmen to serve “at large”. 

Let’s put President Obama aside for the moment.  Here’s the question for Tommy Moran:  “Would you really want a President Nixon, George W. Bush or even a President Christie with this kind of power?”

What Tom Moran advocates is neo-Fascism disguised as an attempt to break the slow, deliberative process inherent in every democracy.  It is no wonder then that the management and editors of the Star-Ledger want to dump due process and the Bill of Rights in favor of a secret list, with a secret process, developed by an unaccountable bureaucracy answerable only to the executive.

What happened to Blackstone's formulation that it is "better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer"?  Too old-fashioned?  Not chai tea enough for our contemporary “lifestyle”?  With thousands of drones set to take to the skies and some in the government arguing that Americans can be killed extra-judicially – is neo-Fascism our future?

Maybe we will get some answers.  CNJ’s editor has been reaching out to people concerned about due process and the Bill of Rights, regardless of party or ideology, because that doesn’t matter.  Without due process and the Bill of Rights, all of us are susceptible to being terrorized by the government of the day.  Who gets terrorized will just depend on the regime.  And who “wins” in a game with no rules? 

In the next week or so, the editor will be contacting the management and editors of the Star-Ledger, to ask them to be part of a cross-party, cross-ideology, cross-community discussion about due process and the Bill of Rights in a time of endless, undeclared “war”.  We will all be watching to see if the Ledger’s apparatchiks have the courage to come out of their well-guarded building to sit down with other Americans to discuss the position put forward in their name, by Julie O’Connor.

Did Kushner make the Trump-Christie marriage?

Chris Christie                                                                                                         David Wildstein

Chris Christie                                                                                                         David Wildstein

Well, let's examine the connections.  When Chris Christie and David Wildstein were kicking around Livingston High School, a young real estate entrepreneur eight years older than Christie was beginning to make a name for himself.  This was Charles Kushner, who was raising a family in the same town Christie was growing up in. 

Wildstein was elected to the Livingston town council and served from 1985 until 1988.  He was Livingston's mayor in 1987-88.  Wildstein launched his PoliticsNJ website in 2000, and operated it in conjunction with his political consulting business.  Wildstein ran an opposition research shop under the political tent of the late Bob Franks, playing a prominent role in Franks' 2001 gubernatorial primary against the eventual Republican nominee, Bret Schundler.

The 2001 election saw the rise of Jim McGreevey and Charles Kushner -- now a major fundraiser for the Democrat Party and for McGreevey in particular.  Both would fall from grace.  McGreevey lurched from scandal to scandal, while Kushner was convicted of making illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering.  Kushner's son, Jared, who had participated in his father's fundraising, was not part of the criminal proceedings.

When David Wildstein needed capital to launch PoliticsPA, PoliticsNH, and a host of other websites, he went to Jared Kushner.  Wildstein's venture proved to be a money pit, maintained at a loss by the Kushner family.  Wildstein ended up selling PoliticsPA to a group of Harrisburg lobbyists, while his other websites withered and fell away. 

By now Wildstein was clearly part of the "Christie project" -- that wait for the "coming man" -- that seemed to obsess so many in the NJGOP.  Wildstein's website would often scoop stories that had all to do with the U.S. Attorney's Office and with reshaping the political landscape -- like when statewide contender Jim Treffinger, the Republican County Executive of Essex County, was arrested and publicly displayed in manacles.

In 2009, Jared Kushner married Ivanka Trump, daughter of real estate mogul Donald Trump.  Two weeks later, Chris Christie was elected Governor.  Wildstein was given a fat patronage job in the new regime and Jared Kushner took over the website that Wildstein had used on Christie's behalf.  A new editor for the website, Darryl Isherwood, was chosen.  He has since joined the political consulting firm of Governor and Presidential candidate Christie's top strategist.  The new boss is Ken Kurson, a New Jersey GOP establishment political consultant who co-wrote Mayor Rudy Giuliani's book.

It appears possible that Donald Trumps' son-in-law would have the kind of contacts to begin a conversation.  But who knows?  Perhaps they'll tell us.